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Yemen: Press Saudi-led coalition into letting in medical supplies

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A woman wearing a protective facemask walks in a street in Yemen’s capital Sana’a amid concerns over the spread of the novel coronavirus, on March 28, 2020. (Photo by AFP)

Yemen has asked the international community to try and pressure the Saudi Arabia-led coalition, which has been attacking the impoverished country since 2015, into letting in medical supplies that are urgently required for diagnosing and treating the new coronavirus’ infection.

“We ask this of nations to pressure the Saudi coalition into relieving Yemen’s siege and allowing in medical equipment and the equipment that are used for diagnosis of the coronavirus,” Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, chairman of the Supreme Revolutionary Committee of Yemen, tweeted on Sunday.

World countries should busy themselves doing so instead of just assessing the number of the infected Yemenis, he noted.

Saudi Arabia and a number of its allies invaded the Arab world’s already most impoverished nation in March 2015 to try and restore power to its former Riyadh-backed officials.

The invaders have, throughout the course of the war, been enforcing an all-out aerial, naval, and land blockade on the country under the pretext of preventing the transfer of arms to Yemen’s popular Houthi Ansarullah movement that has been defending the nation against the military campaign.

The war has killed tens of thousands of Yemenis and turned the country into the scene of the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

The coalition has kept up its aggression despite the viral outbreak that has infected 128 people and claimed 20 lives across Yemen. The invading forces have also reportedly violated a ceasefire that they themselves had announced on the occasion of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

FAO warns of 'catastrophic' food security situation

Yemen is already on the brink of famine by the five-year Saudi war. The UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said on Monday Yemen could see a "catastrophic" food security situation due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Saudi war has caused what the United Nations describes as the world's largest humanitarian crisis. Some 80% of Yemen's population are reliant on aid and millions face hunger.

"The health system was already under heavy stress and will now be overwhelmed if COVID-19 continues to spread and in addition it will affect the movement of people and the movement of goods," Abdessalam Ould Ahmed, the FAO's assistant director-general and regional representative for the Near East and North Africa, told Reuters.

"That situation could be really catastrophic if all the elements of worst case scenarios come to be but let's hope not and the UN are working on avoiding that."

According to the UN agency, lockdowns to prevent the spread of the virus are likely to impact humanitarian supply chains. 

There are currently 15.9 million Yemenis classified as food insecure out of a population of some 28 million.

On Sunday, an NGO and medics said deaths in Aden, which is controlled by Saudi-backed mercenaries, have surged to at least five times higher than normal.

The first coronavirus case in Aden was only recorded about a month ago. But since then, the total number of deaths registered in the city has "increased seven-fold", Saddam al-Haidari, a physician at a public hospital, told AFP news agency.

Several health sources said hospitals have stopped admitting patients with symptoms of the COVID-19 disease in recent days since they are not equipped to deal with the virus.

Save the Children said on Thursday that authorities in Aden have reported an average of 50 deaths per day since May 7 - five times higher than the baseline average of 10 deaths a day in more normal times.

Yemen's health system has all but collapsed since the conflict broke out in 2014. 

Making the situation worse is intermittent infighting between mercenaries supported by the UAE and Saudi Arabia. 

On Saturday, at least 14 UAE-backed southern separatists and Saudi-led militants were killed as clashes between the two sides entered a sixth day in the southern Yemeni province of Abyan.

Separatist forces of the so-called Southern Transitional Council (STC) are resisting an offensive by Saudi-sponsored militants loyal to Yemen's former president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, launched on the outskirts of Zinjibar, some 60 km from Aden.

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